Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Loyalty to Royalty: Q&A with John Thornley, founding member of the band U.S. Royalty

John Thornley is the lead singer of U.S. Royalty, a local DC band with a loyal fan base.  He brings an energy and a passion for what he does to every show.  He spoke with us about their upcoming album MIRRORS and some of the artists who have inspired him musically. 


Q: So your next album, MIRRORS, is still in production.  You said it has a "desert feel" to it, what do you mean by that and when do you expect it to be released? 

A: This will be our first full-length release.  It definitely has a travel vibe to it.  We wrote the album during and after about a year and a half of traveling.  As far as the desert feel, it has a western vibe flowing through parts of it.  We enjoy alot of old cowboy flicks and I would say Ennio Morricone's soundtracks were definitely inspirational.  We are hoping to release it mid to late October, 2010.

Q: Who does most of the writing in the band and what's the process?

A: Most of the songs start out with a guitar line my brother has or a melody I have.   Then we'll work on it together until we get some sort of song out of it.  We'll take that to the rest of the guys, jam it out a bit, then start to test it out live.  A few times at our space we intend to work on a certain song but then start jamming and end up writing a new song.  That doesn't happen all the time but those songs come the fastest.  I'd say about half of the songs on the album though were recorded first, in some fashion, then were played live later.

Q: What's it been like working with producer Gus Oberg?  How did you connect with him and can you tell us a little bit about him? 

A: We met him over a year and a half ago.  Jake had reached out to him about recording, though at the time we weren't ready to do the album.  Fast forward to this past winter, we had alot of new material we were working through and were ready to have him man the helm of recording this batch of new songs.  I'm sure google can tell more particular details about his work, but we have really enjoyed working with him so far and really feel he has helped us capture the sound we were going for on this project.

Q: U.S. Royalty is set to play an upcoming fashion event in DC, Fri., Sept. 10th what are the details for those who'd like to attend?

A: It's a Fashion Night Out event on Sept. 10th at the Neiman Marcus Gallerie.  It's being sponsored by the L'Enfant Society. 

Q: You mentioned that your grandfather was a blues man, how did this inspire you artistically?  And what artists in particular have influenced you? 

A: I think just hearing that as I grew up and thinking to myself that this sounded like it had feeling and importance. You hear alot of different music growing up, alot of which you are running the other way from but can't escape because your a kid.  The blues stuck with me even today as I continue to listen and write music, as a benchmark for what I think is cool and of importance.  Some artists in particular that have influenced me...Fleetwood Mac, Mark Kozelek, Lee Hazlewood, Led Zeppelin, The Zombies. 

Q: When asked what your favorite venue is so far you mentioned both the 9:30 Club in DC and Pianos in New York, for very different reasons.  Can you tell why you liked them so much? 

A: I really enjoy the room on the stage at 930 club and the sound is incredible.  We've played there twice now and I feel I can really let go there and get lost in the music.  Pianos on the other hand is a very small stage, there's no room for your gear and the sound probably won't be that great.  But talking with people in NYC, they enjoy going to see bands at that venue. Maybe because it's easy to get to and it's familiar but I just know that I would want to play at a place that people enjoy coming to.  Makes it easier to get them to come to your show.  And our last gig there was packed and had a good mix of old friends and new faces so i really enjoyed the vibe that night.

Q: Can you tell us about your collaboration with Phil Ade and Alex Goose; and can we look forward to more in the future?

A: Alex helped write two tracks on our new album.  We collaborated over email and have had him up to our studio at Gold Leaf. The thing with Phil and Alex is more hip hop based and is separate from what we do with USR. All I can say at this point is yes, there will be more in the future.

Q: What's your favorite thing to do in DC? 

A: Well when I'm in town I enjoy spending time at our studio in Chinatown playing ping pong and music.  Otherwise having a drink at The Gibson, crashing pools around town, or going to house parties are some things that are sure to be a good time in DC.

Monday, August 23, 2010

BLISSPOP! Q&A with Will Eastman, DJ, Producer and Co-Owner of U Street Music Hall

Will Eastman is a DJ, music producer and remixer based in DC. He is a co-owner of U Street Music Hall with partners Eric Hilton of Thievery Corporation and DJ Tittsworth. His monthly dance party "BLISS" is getting ready to celebrate its 10 year anniversary!


Q: We understand you are signed with a label in New York called Plant Music. Tell us about the re-issued version of your debut single "Feelin'" they've released and your tour starting Sept. 7th.

A: The single is a disco/house/rave track that's a nod to a lot of my influences growing up. It features live bass and guitar played by myself and Micah Vellian, with whom I co-wrote the song. It originally had a vocal sample and the label opted to release it as an instrumental. In the meantime, I brought a local vocalist, Chelsea Mitchell, into the studio to re-record the vocal and Plant will release the vocal mix in September with 5 fresh remixes by locals Gavin Holland, Nacey, and Chris Burns, Dillon Francis from LA, and ARA and Kenny Summit from NYC. I'm doing a short East Coast tour Sept 8-13 to support the release, playing in Boston and Philly for the first time, as well as NYC, Baltimore and Richmond. I'll be playing Plant Music's night at Ella in NYC on Sept. 8 to celebrate the release.

Q: You are one of the owners of U Street Music Hall in DC. How did your involvement with Brian Miller and Eric Hilton come about?

A: I've known Brian (aka Brian Billion) for about 8 years. We met through a mutual friend and hit it off right away. I asked him to guest DJ my party, BLISS, without ever hearing him DJ based entirely on his knowledge of and taste in music, and I definitely wasn't disappointed. He's the only BLISS guest DJ to this day I've done that with and we've been DJing together ever since. Brian is an architect and designed The Gibson, Paddy Boom Boom and other ESL Group projects. He introduced me to Eric a few years ago and a little over a year ago I pitched an idea to Eric for a no-frills, underground dance club with a rock club atmosphere, no attitude or bottle service, but a high-quality sound system. We shook hands on it and 10 months later opened U Street Music Hall.

Q: You tweet often! Share with our readers the story of your most re-tweeted tweet and how it led to SoundCloud contacting you.

A: Hahaha, quantity on Twitter isn't necessarily quality, but I try to keep it interesting and playful. Twitter is a powerful platform because if you have a good observation and it resonates with people it can get circulated rather quickly around the world. I'm frustrated SoundCloud, which in my opinion has the best online music player, doesn't have a feature for artists to list upcoming performance dates. With this simple addition, I think they could put MySpace out of business in 6 months. I tweeted about it several months ago and DJs all over the world retweeted it. SoundCloud actually responded to me directly, saying they suggest any number of sites such as BandsInTown, ReverbNation etc. but I don't understand why they'd want to cede that segment of the market to other parties and those site just don't have great music players. SoundCloud has built an elegant player that loads quickly and allows listeners to comment on tracks. Their site is popular with DJs and I believe eventually they could gain mainstream appeal. I for one would like to kill my MySpace page. The only reason I still have a MySpace page, like many artists, is to list upcoming dates and because falls highly within search engine results.

Q: The 10 year anniversary of your legendary dance party, Blisspop is happening at U Street Music Hall on Sept. 25th. How did Blisspop start & evolve over the last 10 years?

A: Oh, man, that's a long story. I began curating events at clubs in 1997 because I wanted to pair like-minded bands and DJs. I soon started DJing and fell in love with it. After a couple years, I decided to start a party dedicated to new, forward looking indie dance music, electropop, house and "anything that makes you move." The music has evolved over the years, which is how I like it, but the basic idea has remained the same: No attitude, just fun and insane dancing. We have a crazy party planned September 25 and Brian Billion and I are holding it down all night.

Q: What cities will you be hitting on your European tour that starts in October?

A: The tour is getting pushed back a bit to accommodate the September release. Definitely going back to Berlin, London and Stockholm and hope to play two new places this time, Paris and Vienna.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do in DC?

A: My favorite things to do in DC, or anywhere, are to DJ and dance. I also like to have a good drink. A few of my favorite spots in DC are 9:30 Club, The Gibson and Old Ebbitt Grill for oysters.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Words, Beats, Life

This afternoon we ran into artist Coby Kennedy painting a mural for Words, Beats, Life Inc. in Bladgen Alley.  Q&A with Cory Stowers, Dir. of Design for WBL, forthcoming.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Living, Playing, Breathing Music: Q&A with Musician/Music Teacher, Matthew Hemerlein

Matthew has been playing music for over 20 years and has been teaching music for the last two years in the DC area. He has been awarded a Young Performing Artist Grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and is using the grant to record his next album. See what Matthew is working on and down load his latest track for free.


Q: We found out you play 6 instruments. Can you list them and tell us your favorite and why it's your favorite?

A: I play string instruments and piano so Violin, Cello, Guitar(Seven String), Upright Bass, Mandolin, and then the Piano. My favorite one is the one closest to me which is usually my voice so I think singing is really important in order to always be creating regardless of your circumstances.

Q: In the last year you received a Young Performing Artist Grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities to work on your next album. How is that coming along and when do you expect to release it?

A: I'm starting recording now, and am finished with pre-production; it's set to be released on October 20th my birthday and still kicking around names, maybe "Hot Nickels" or "Permutations"? I am working with Artist Matthew Curry regarding the presentation of it, he's super talented and can't wait to see what turns out!

Q: Tell us about Cowboy Cologne, who is involved and how it came about?

A: Cowboy Cologne is a project that was formed between myself and the Thornley Brothers from U.S. Royalty. We also added our friend Ryan Mitchell who writes a lot as well as plays banjo and guitar. Were getting together material now for an album, recording demo's and sketches.

Q: So are you an Elvis Man or a Beatles man?

A: I'm an early Elvis guy and a late Beatles. I think both were terribly powerful at those times in their careers and I def get chill's when listening to those tunes.

Q: You are appearing at a Benefit called Nashville Flood Benefit Show at the Gibson Center in DC on Aug. 21st. Who does this show benefit and what can guests expect when they get there?

A: They can expect great music from Christylez Bacon, Birdlips and Aaron Thompson, and an open bar provided by Flying Dog Ale and Tito's Handmade Vodka. The proceeds are going to benefit The Gibson Foundation and its associative program Music Rising which deals specifically with helping musicians get instruments who lost their gear in the recent flood.

Q: Who are you listening to right now?

A: I don't really listen to that much music, especially when I'm recording, but I go see music I just saw Spoon with Arcade Fire and then Devendra Banhart with MGMT. It was a good time.

Q: What is your favorite Thing to do in DC?

A: Play music for new and old friends. It could be only one person, someone I'm intimate with, or a 300 person room. It doesn't matter, It's just what I like best.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Q&A Interview with Nicole Boxer, Consulting Producer of Top Chef and Board Member of Headcount.org

It's been a crazy busy year for Nicole Boxer. Not only did she act as a consulting producer for Top Chef DC and consult with Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, she also became a Member of the Board of Directors of Headcount.org! In these two roles she is managing to flex her creative muscle as well as make a difference in voter participation through music! Listen to what she had to say when we sat down with her.


Q: You were brought on as a consulting producer for Top Chef DC in part because you are so connected with the DC political scene. Did Nancy Pelosi enjoy being on the show and is she a foodie?

A: Yes, I was brought into the Top Chef world early on in the process when the show's creators, Magical Elves, were considering doing a season in DC. I feel so proud to be associated with the show, especially when it comes to showing off my " adopted" home city. Speaker Pelosi is a major lover of cuisine and a huge get for the show. Being from San Francisco doesn't instantly qualify you as a foodie, but it's pretty close. I have never seen a person so beautifully portion out her bite of food, gracefully manipulate it on to a fork and taste with elegance and self-confidence. Her criticisms were on point and the blue team was victorious!

Q: Who is the most interesting person you've met so far while working on Top Chef?

A: The great thing about Location TV is it's like a small city comes to town; in this case, it was "Top Chef City"! I loved every single person working on the crew of Top Chef, from the Hosts to the Executive Producers to the P.A's and Craft Service. They are quality people who work their asses off, a bunch of bad ass, L.A. hipsters. The person who was a real gem to meet was Andy Cohen of Bravo and host of "Watch What Happens". Andy has one of the greatest jobs in show business and he deserves it, he is lush.

Q: Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution which focuses on the fight against obesity in the U.S. was just nominated for an Emmy. What was your roll with the show?

A: Jamie Oliver is totally committed to changing the way we look at food in the schools and it is way past time we did that. I was brought on as a Consulting Producer, to help potentially navigate or explore the political waters for Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution. I had a very small role on Jamie's show, in fact, my dream DC scenes never happened! We could not get Jamie or the crew in or out of DC during the planned shoot due to the "snowpacolyspe" and we lost a key window with Lawmakers. Despite my failed efforts the show is nominated for an Emmy!

Q: Do you think Jamie's campaign against obesity will have a lasting impression and actually change eating habits nationwide?

A: I believe that one person can change the world. Jamie Oliver is having a much needed conversation with American families about what kind of food we put in our bodies, how and why that food is killing us slowly-- and the need for our public schools to provide nutritious alternatives that also taste good to children. I believe in that.

Jamie also taught the community in West Virginia where the show was filmed, how to cook simple dishes, thereby empowering people with new found skills. That man knows how to make food taste good, using simple fresh ingredients. Jamie really cares about people and I hope people will follow his lead.

Q: Congratulations on being made a Member of the Board of Directors at Headcount.org. Tell us who they are and how that came about.

A: It feels good to be involved in two things I really care about combined: Live Music and Voter Participation.

Headcount is a non-partisan organization that registers voters at concerts and makes civic participation part of the live music experience. Artists such as the Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, Jack Johnson,The Dead, Phish, John Mayer and Wilco have helped us register over 160,000 voters. It is an absolute blast thinking about ways to engage younger votes and convince them to get the voting booth!

Q: What would you say to young people who think their vote might not matter?

A: You are sadly mistaken if you think your vote does not matter! All you need to do is go back to the BUSH V. GORE decision, every vote counted (or in that case, some were discounted). We have a chance to have the kind of country we imagine, if we take an interest and commit. A country that is even more compassionate, creative and resourceful. If you don't vote, you can't be a part of the solution. Try it out; it feels good to be counted.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do in DC?

A: Hard to pick just one so here is how I would spend a "perfect day": Skateboarding with friends at the Skate park (in Arlington, sorry, DC needs to get on that) then, head over to We, the Pizza, for a tasty slice in my neighborhood, (thanks Top Chef Alumni Spike Mendhelson), on Capitol Hill. Then you'll find me down to the 9:30 Club for some dancing, hopefully to Thievery Corporation. In my mind, the 9:30 Club is still the best place to see live music in DC, hands down.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Q&A with Ryan Holladay, Electronic Pop DJ

Q&A with Ryan Holladay, Electronic Pop DJ

Bluebrain is an electronic-pop duo comprised of brothers & local Washingtonians Ryan & Hays Holladay.  We recently caught up with Ryan.  Check out the interview below! 


Q: So you are a musician by night, what's your day job?

A: Lately we've been doing music in many different capacities with most of our time. We are in the middle of scoring a film, which is exciting. We've never done anything on this scale before. We're also working on a few remixes for bands like Ra Ra Riot as well as working on some events for places like the Corcoran. Later this month, I'm starting a new job as a curator at a new arts space that's opening up called the Artisphere.

Q: Where are you & your brother Hays originally from and what do you miss about it?

A: We actually grew up here. We both moved to New York when we were 18 and moved back a couple years ago, so we're surrounded by many of the old haunts of our childhood. But it's certainly changed a lot since we lived here so there's still plenty to miss. I have fond memories of the old Black Cat. It used to be just up the street in a different venue. I remember going to punk shows there when I was young.

Q: At what age did you two start playing music together and what were you playing at the time?

A: We started becoming really interested in music around the 5th grade. We started a band called Evan Sees Red with a childhood friend and have been playing together pretty much ever since. That said, I learned piano when I was very young but it wasn't untill we picked up guitars that writing our own music seemed like an exciting idea.

Q: Who do you consider important in music right now and why?

A: It's hard for me to say who is important but there's certainly a lot of people doing very interesting things. Last year was a great one for new music, I think. Whether or not those emerging artists will be considered important or even relevant in a year or so is yet to be determined. The main trend I see is a blurring of the lines between pop music and what people generally consider indie or underground. I think the artist Robyn might be the best example of this. But what do I know?

Q:  Tell us about the white party your playing at the Philipps on Aug. 26th and it's relationship to SNOWMAGEDON?

A: They approached us about doing something in the space during their white party in relation to some of the artist they have showing right now. Everyone agreed that it should be tangentially related to the snow storm we all lived through but we didn't know how exactly. The idea sort of emerged to create a "collective narrative", piecing together people's experiences from that time and tying them together somehow. The phone line is open now and they're asking people to call and leave a message with their story. You should do leave one yourself!

Q: We understand Bluebrain may be collaborating with artist Spencer Finch sometime in the fall....any bones you can throw us?

A: Still figuring that one out. Just met with the museum staff today and will be talking with Spencer later in the month when he is in town installing his work. Not sure what we're going do there but we love his work and are excited to have the opportunity to do something like that. Ask me in a few weeks and I may have a better answer!

Q: What is your favorite Thing to do in DC? 
A: There are many things I love about DC, but it's certainly hard to beat spending the Fourth of July in the district. I tend to get very patriotic, which leads to gushing about Lady Liberty, which leads to singing America songs, which leads to crying. So, in short, my favorite thing to do in DC is cry. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Q&A with John Chambers, Founder and Chief Executive Gardener

BloomBars is a non-profit community arts space that redefines the concept of a bar, nurturing artists through live music, visual arts, dance, live performances, spoken word, youth programs, and more. BloomBars is open to all ages, and does not serve alcohol.


Q: Please share with us your inspiration for founding BloomBars.

A: BloomBars was founded on a belief that art and artists have the power to transform communities and alter the way individuals think, feel, and experience the world. The inspiration happened in the years leading up to the last presidential election. There was a sense that something radically different was needed to unite and inspire a diverse and demographically shifting Washington, D.C., my hometown for the last 18 years, as well as in communities across the globe. Rather than trying to "sell" BloomBars, we did no marketing, and instead, let people discover our wide open doors. We invite our friends, neighbors, and fans to engage in the community and be pushed outside the comfortable boxes, cliques, and identities we too often get stuck in. It's a place for creative expression, honest conversation, personal health and wellness, and entertainment in a rich cultural environment. It's been a slow growth, but our patience is paying off as we move closer to sustainability. Every day, we hear stories from people who have had some moving experience as a result of being apart of our community. And we've had a front row seat watching our Artist inBloom Residents Fellows bloom beyond imagination.

Q: We've heard terrific things about Bloom Screen Indie Film Night, can you tell us more about it?

A: We're very excited about Bloom Screen Indie Film Night. It represents the significant efforts of a team of curators led by Artist inBloom film resident, Julie Espinosa. Every Tuesday from 6:30pmto 8:30pm, we screen local, independent, foreign and documentary films. The screening is followed by a discussion with the filmmaker, subject matter expert, or a person connected with the film. We're also excited about a new collaboration with POV, the award-winning independent nonfiction film series on PBS (www.pbs.org/pov).

Q: BloomBars is a non-profit and does not charge it's patrons, how do you manage to continually deliver such great events?

A: Good question. It is certainly a challenge, but we believe that cultural shifts in behavior can happen over time if we effectively communicate our value, and help folks understand that adonation is an investment in their growth, and the community's growth—like our tag, "You Bloom. We Bloom." You wouldn't ask a bartender for a free drink. Of course, we're not a bar that serves alcohol—but we still say "value what isserved or serve something you value." That being said, we're learning, evolving, and excited to develop new partnerships with organizations in the DC community to promote grassroots arts.

Q: What type of role will BloomBars play in this year's, Columbia Heights Day on Aug. 28th?

A: We have a full day (and night) of programming in store for Columbia Heights Day from 9am until 6:30am the next morning. We'll have classes in belly dancing, yoga, salsa, samba, and capoeira; Storytime for Baby Bloomers; The Garden open mic; a Cuban Salsa Party; live music by Amber Dutton and Gregg Hammond; and Sunrise Cinema (movies from 2:30pm to 6:30am to give people a place to rest and relax rather than potentially drink and drive). From 1pm to 5pm, the Columbia Heights Media Project will also be interviewing community members as part of its effort to both inspire interaction among residents and tell important stories that might otherwise be left untold. A full list of events can be viewed at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/event.php?eid=138624146176481&ref=ts.

Q: We've seen your videos on BloomTV and some of us get The WeeklyBloom, how can our readers get on your mailing list?

A: You can keep updated and follow our stories by visiting our Facebook page, where you can Like BloomBars and sign-up for The WeeklyBloom, our newsletter. http://www.facebook.com/bloombars. You can watch BloomTV by visiting http://www.youtube.com/user/BloomBars.And follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BloomBars

Q: If any of our readers are interested in volunteering for Bloombars who should they contact?

A: BloomBars is run by volunteers and wecould always use more help! Contact our volunteer coordinator, Nilanga Jayasinghe, at nilanga@bloombars.com.

Q: What is your favorite Thing to do in DC?

A: My favorite thing to do in DC is witness and participate in the creation of art of all types: dance, music, visual art, film. And if we could put an addendum to that question, "secret favorite thing to do in DC," that would be watching planes take-off and land while sitting on the old bridge next to the Key Bridge in Georgetown. By far the best sunset watching!